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Secretary's Report to the State Board of Agriculture
July 25, 2007Gypsy Moth Suppression – The 2007 Statewide Aerial Defoliation Survey showed that more than 320,000 acres of trees were defoliated by gypsy moth caterpillars this past spring, the highest amount since 1990, when there were more than 431,000 acres of trees experienced leaf loss. A total of 124 municipalities in 19 counties experienced 320,610 acres of defoliation -- much of it severe -- from gypsy moth caterpillars this year, compared with 15 counties and 69 municipalities last year. The hardest hit counties were Sussex and Burlington. Sussex County had the most acres defoliated with 96,655 acres. However, Burlington had the largest number of acres severely defoliated at 86,855 acres. Counties that did not have gypsy moth defoliation last year, but registered damage this year were Bergen, Essex, Morris, and Passaic. The number of acres defoliated more than doubled this year from last year’s total of 125,743. The increase was due to a rapid population build-up after dry spring weather kept a beneficial fungus disease dependent on moisture from naturally killing off the gypsy moth caterpillars.
Letters were sent to the 124 affected municipalities with information on requesting egg mass surveys, which are used to evaluate the following year’s gypsy moth population and identify areas for treatment in next year’s program.
The fight against the gypsy moth is getting help on another front. Staff from the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insect Rearing Laboratory has found that beneficial insects, parasites and fungus that kill gypsy moths are present and exerting strong pressure on the gypsy moth population. Their data from egg mass collections prior to hatch this spring showed that about 50 percent of the individual eggs in the egg masses had parasites.
Governor’s Hunger Initiative – Under the Fiscal Year 2008 State Budget, $4 million has been allocated to the State Food Purchase Program (SFPP) to be distributed to the emergency feeding operations in the state for additional food purchases. All SFPP funds for Fiscal Year 2007 were distributed, with $3 million being used for food purchases and $1 million for infrastructure support. Some examples of how the infrastructure funds were used are the purchases of refrigerators and freezers for food pantries.
Laboratory Equipment Purchase – The Fiscal Year 2008 State Budget included an appropriation for the purchase of new chromatography equipment for the Plant Industry lab. The chromatograph will be used to identify toxins and other biologically active molecules. The equipment should provide a benefit to all divisions in the Department.
JerseyFresh Breakfast – Governor Corzine hosted supermarket chain executives and head produce buyers at a breakfast at Drumthwacket, the Governor’s Mansion on July 19. Those in attendance were presented with an update on the 2007 Jersey Fresh campaign and were urged to continue their support of the branding program in their stores. The breakfast was sponsored by the Department and the New Jersey Food Council.
BioFuels – The BioFuels Action Group, which has been meeting twice monthly for just over a year at the Department of Agriculture, has been very active in helping to shape the State Energy Master Plan, which will be drafted and presented this coming fall. The Group includes representation from the Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, the Board of Public Utilities, Governor’s Office of Economic Growth, Commerce Commission and Rutgers University. Its goal is to identify, and offer solutions to, hurdles that can keep biofuels companies from successfully located in the state. Issues that have been successfully dealt with by the Group include site selection, permitting time frames, inventorying of biomass sources available to be turned into biofuels, identification of state and federal incentive programs and investigation of new technologies. The Group, through a connection with the New Jersey Food Council, also helped a Lakewood-based company planning an ethanol plant in Bridgeton to locate sources of beverage-production waste that the company plans to use to supplement corn feedstocks.
Agriculture Water Needs -- As part of the development of the State Water Supply Master Plan, each user group was asked to plan for mitigating the different stages of a drought by conserving water use. A meeting was held asking each agricultural water use sector to start to develop strategies for water conservation during those periods leading up to a drought. Agricultural water use is exempt from water use restrictions at all stages of drought, except a drought emergency.
Farm to Fork Week – July 22-27 is Farm to Fork Week, sponsored by the South Jersey Restaurant Association. Secretary Kuperus joined with state Senator John Adler at Springdale Farms in Cherry Hill to help kick-off week in which 40 independent restaurants in South Jersey partnered with local farmers to offer diners four-course dinners that highlight locally produced farm products, including vegetables, fruits, cheeses, seafood and wine. The purpose of Farm to Fork Week is to remind the public of the benefits of having local New Jersey farms and fresh, locally grown products.
Marketing Report: Jersey Fresh Availability Report -- The seasonal "Jersey Fresh Availability & Forecast Report" continues to update the regions produce industry, Cooperative Extension staff, Department personnel, restaurateurs, Jersey Fresh licensed growers, and food media communicators on the current and future availability of Jersey Fresh produce. The seafood availability report continues to be updated every two weeks on the Jersey Seafood website at www.jerseyseafood.nj.gov.
Legislators Farm Tour – State legislators have been invited to join the Department of Agriculture and New Jersey Agricultural Society for a tour of Monmouth County farms on July 31st. Stops will include the Horse Park of New Jersey, Peretti Farms, Battleview Orchards and Four Seasons Nursery. The tour will provide an opportunity for farmers to discuss issues with legislators who set policies that impact the industry.
Horse Racing Events – The weekend of August 4 and 5 will feature the biggest annual races in the state for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds with the Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack and the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. The Hambletonian, held on August 4, is the most prestigious race in United States harness racing. It is the first leg and most important race in the Triple Crown of Trotting series and has been held at the Meadowlands since 1981, making this the 25th anniversary of the race in the state. The 2007 running of the Haskell Invitation Handicap on August 5, with a purse of $1 million, is the riches invitational event contested in North America.
National Community Farmers Market Week– The Department will join with USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Undersecretary Kate Houston on August 8 at the Toms River Farmers Market in Ocean County to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. The market will be distributing Senior Citizen Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons that day to seniors from surrounding towns, which may then use the coupons to make purchases at the market. The Governor also has signed a proclamation declaring that week Farmers Market Week in New Jersey.